The CCW Safe https://ccwsafe.com/ series about my concept of Breaking Contact continues with Part 3.
Part 2 of the series focused on situations where the concealed carrier initiated contact. Part 3 focuses on incidents where the carrier was initially approached and failed to take the opportunity to Break Contact.
I hate platitudes when they’re used in an attempt to simplify a complex topic into a sound bite. “Better to be tried by twelve than carried by six” is one of the most commonly parroted sayings in the firearms community. While many times we are presented with the optometrist’s question, “Which is better, A or B?,” decisions that are made in advance and are going to affect the rest of our lives seldom are binary. I like to think we’re smarter than parrots that have been trained to say one or two things.
As Shawn points out, the decision process has several more options.
When the goal is not necessarily to kill or disable a would-be attacker, a defender is open to other options that carry less legal risk and may produce more positive outcomes.
When breaking contact is the goal, sometimes it is better to disengage rather than attempt to de-escalate.
My personal paradigm is:
Any attempt at de-escalation, even when benign, is a part of Confront. Disengage is part of Escape. Escaping is higher on my priority list than Confronting.
Similarly, in the Gerald Strebendt incident, he unnecessarily moved up the paradigm from Escape to Confront. A confrontation inherently carries more risk associated with it than an escape. As John Hall, former head of the FBI Firearms Training Unit put it:
Any encounter carries with it an element of chance.
My initial post about Breaking Contact (Part I) is located here:
The second is here.
If you would like to purchase my book, click on the image below. The detailed investigations and reports of incidents involving off-duty LAPD officers are very instructional for understanding the differences between Avoiding, Escaping, and Confronting.
Good decisions come from experience. Experience comes from bad decisions.
Although incorrectly attributed to Will Rogers, the concept of learning from other peoples’ experience rather than our own still has value. We can use the Intelligence community’s technique of ‘walking back the cat’ to de-construct an incident. This allows us to visualize it and learn from the experience of someone else.
The concept of ‘Decision points’ has been emphasized by both Gary Klein, PhD., a noted expert on the decision-making process, and President George W. Bush. Any drama contains not just one, but a sequence of decisions and decision points we can study.
The Don’t Shoot/Shoot decision is the one most commonly focused on the training and firearms communities. However, any Defensive Gun Use, whether shots are fired or not, contains a plethora of decisions and decision points. These occur before, during, and after the shooting or display of a firearm takes place.
A rich source for walking back the cat is the Categorical Use of Force reports by the LAPD Board of Police Commissioners. The following is an analysis of one incident by an off-duty LAPD officer. The analysis will use the phases of an incident as described in my book Real Shootouts of the LAPD. http://realshootoutsofthelapd.com
The incident began as an Aggravated Assault on an LAPD off-duty officer. The full report by the Board of Police Commissioners, including its Findings about Tactics, Drawing and Exhibiting of a Firearm, and Use of Lethal Force can be found here. http://www.lapdonline.org/assets/pdf/011-11_Harbor-OIS.pdf
Officer A, who was off-duty, walked to his vehicle parked in the driveway of a residence. He did not see anyone around at the time. His duty weapon was in the right front pocket of his pants. After driving out of the driveway, he backed his vehicle up and left the lights on. He then walked back to the gate to close it.
- Decision point — Leave home armed with his weapon on his person or at least accessible? Even for POlice officers, this is not as absolute a decision as it would seem, as can be seen in other LAPD off-duty incidents.
- Decision point — Close gate (initial entry barrier to home) or not? As mundane as this decision seems, many people leave their garage doors open when they drive away from their home.
Officer A saw the Subject walking on the sidewalk coming toward him. The Subject then began to run toward Officer A. As the distance to the Subject became closer, Officer A saw the Subject had a handgun in his hand. The Subject pointed the handgun at Officer A.
- Decision point — Maintain awareness of surroundings or focus on telephone or other attention divider?
- Decision point — Maintain surveillance on the suspect or not?
- Decision point — Recognize and accept that an armed attack is imminent or not?
Drawing and Exhibiting
Officer A drew his service pistol from his pocket.
- Decision point — Draw own pistol or not?
Immediately after drawing his pistol, Officer A fired one round at the Subject.
- Decision point — Don’t Shoot or Shoot?
- Decision point — Fire in place or Shoot on the Move?
- Decision point — Obtain an adequate sight picture to make a hit or fire without visual reference?
The Subject seemed unaffected, so Officer A fired a second round at the Subject.
- Decision point — Don’t Shoot or Shoot a second time?
- Decision point — Fire in place or Shoot on the Move?
- Decision point — Obtain an adequate sight picture to make a hit or fire without visual reference?
After running past Officer’s A car, the subject collapsed on the sidewalk behind a short block wall.
Post Gunfight Actions
Because he could not see him and wanted to wait for responding officers to arrive, Officer A did not approach the Subject.
- Decision point — Approach the suspect or not?
Officer A retreated to cover at the house and called 911.
- Decision point — Hold position or retreat to cover?
- Decision point — Call 9-1-1 or do something else?
While he was calling 911, Officer A observed another male come over to the Subject, squat down, then stand up and adjust his shirt. The second male then walked away.
- Decision point — Interact with/challenge the secondary suspect or not?
Two other males walked to the fallen Subject, leaned over to look at him, and then walked away.
- Decision point — Interact with/challenge the tertiary suspects or not?
There are also implied decision points subsequent in the drama but were not elaborated on by the BOPC.
- Actions on approach of responding officers.
- What statements, if any, should be made to responding officers and then to detectives.
- Whom else to notify about the incident; Significant Other, etc.
- Retain an attorney or call pre-paid legal assistance plan.
At least 21 decisions/decision points are readily discernible in this incident. There are perhaps even more, despite this being a relatively uncomplicated DGU. Also note that of the 21, only six (Don’t Shoot or Shoot [X2]), (Fire in place or Shoot on the Move [X2]), and (Obtain an adequate sight picture to make a hit or fire without visual reference [X2]) can be readily practiced with live fire. Those and another, (Draw own pistol or not) can be practiced dry. The other two-thirds of the decisions are more in the nature of ‘soft skills’ that are best decided upon in advance and then practiced away from the range.
“Best decided upon in advance and practiced away from the range” represents our opportunities during the current ammo shortage. Rather than sit on our hands because ammo has become so precious, we can begin developing and practicing a more complete repertoire of the skills we need for Personal Protection. If you would like to read my analyses of the rest of the incidents described in the book, please subscribe to me on Patreon. Patreon link I will be posting the rest of them there.
Some instructors, including myself, had an interesting discussion on Facebook about the phrase “once you can shoot.”
My question to the group was ‘What does that mean?’ I asked it as a serious question. The personal journey I’ve made in answering that question over time has been interesting. My answers to myself about it have changed dramatically as a result of some related research I’ve done. The two most significant areas of research were Negative Outcomes and what higher level thinkers in the POlice community had to say. The discussion was involved enough that I wrote a Patreon post about it.
I’m making the Patreon post public because I think it’s a much neglected philosophical discussion. At The Mingle this month, I asked the ladies present to write out their personal policy about when to draw or present a weapon. It was the first time that many of them had ever been asked to do that. We need to realize that ‘Have Adequate [Hard] Skills’ is only one aspect of the issues we face.
Marksmanship is a hard skill but soft skills are important too.
The AR-15 rifle has become popular as a tool for Home Defense. However, there hasn’t been much discussion about how to use rifles to deal with deadly threats outside and yet threatening one’s home. The escalation of Civil Disorder has heightened our awareness of a broader range of necessary home defense. Conceptually, this might be considered FORWARD Home Defense.
One of the first aspects of preparing for such a Forward Defense is to conduct a terrain analysis of the area outside the home. This analysis should consider both the Area of Influence (where a homeowner could actually disrupt an attack) and the Area of Interest (where a homeowner could detect an attacker’s intent outside of the Area of Influence.) We can use the Terrain component of METT-TC as a structure for our terrain analysis. The 1992 edition of Field Manual 7-8 INFANTRY RIFLE PLATOON AND SQUAD https://www13.shu.edu/offices/rotc/upload/FM-7-8.pdf describes the analysis as follows:
(3) Terrain. The leader considers the effect of terrain and weather on enemy and friendly forces using the guidelines below (OCOKA):
(a) Observation and fields of fire. The leader considers ground that allows him observation of the enemy throughout his area of operation. He considers fields of fire in terms of the characteristics of the weapons available to him; for example, maximum effective range, the requirement for grazing fire, and the arming range and time of flight for antiarmor weapons.
(b) Cover and concealment. The leader looks for terrain that will protect him from direct and indirect fires (cover) and from aerial and ground observation (concealment). (Author’s note: Cover and Concealment also applies to what the Enemy might use.)
(c) Obstacles. In the attack, the leader considers the effect of restrictive terrain on his ability to maneuver. In the defense, he considers how he will tie in his obstacles to the terrain to disrupt, turn, fix, or block an enemy force and protect his own forces from enemy assault.
(d) Key terrain. Key terrain is any locality or area whose seizure or retention affords a marked advantage to either combatant. The leader considers key terrain in his selection of objectives, support positions, and routes in the offense, and on the positioning of his unit in the defense.
(e) Avenues of approach. An avenue of approach is an air or ground route of an attacking force of a given size leading to its objective or key terrain in its path. In the offense, the leader identifies the avenue of approach that affords him the greatest protection and places him at the enemy’s most vulnerable spot. In the defense, the leader positions his key weapons along the avenue of approach most likely to be used by the enemy.
(f) Weather. In considering the effects of weather, the leader is most interested in visibility and trafficability.
Some aspects of the terrain analysis may surprise you. For instance, Google Maps can be used to measure distances around your home. You might find that the distance from your front porch to the furthest Avenue of Approach and Point of Likely Cover is 236 feet (79 yards).
Doing a terrain analysis gives you an idea of the area you need to defend and also what tools you might use to defend the approaches to your home.
There will be further explanation on my Patreon page https://www.patreon.com/TacticalProfessor but this is worthwhile food for thought to start.
Tactical Professor books (all PDF)
- Serious Mistakes Gunowners Make http://seriousgunownermistakes.com
- Indoor Range Practice Sessions http://indoorrangepracticesessions.com
- Concealed Carry Skills and Drills http://concealedcarryskillsanddrills.com
- Advanced Pistol Practice http://bit.ly/advancedpistolpractice
- Shooting Your Black Rifle http://shootingyourblackrifle.com
- Package deal of Serious Mistakes, Indoor Sessions, Concealed Carry, and Shoot Yor Rifle (20% off) https://store.payloadz.com/details/2644448-ebooks-sports-shooting-drills-package.html
After my initial thoughts about the White Settlement church shooting, a list of other relevant factors came to mind. The conversation about the incident mostly has centered around the ability to make a 12-15 yard head shot. The tactical factors have largely been ignored or overlooked. That’s a Strategic Mistake.
Here’s my list for those wishing to do their own research and METT-TC analysis.
This morning there was a murder in a church in Texas. A few seconds later, further murders were prevented by the quick action of a counter-murderer who protected the congregation. In the incident, it appears that someone tried to draw a pistol but was unsuccessful and got shot for his trouble. It is possible he was trying to get his cell phone to call for help, though. The footage is not very clear.
What was the requisite level of skill to end this situation? The shot would appear to be two aisles plus the width of a pew.
At the recommended 24 inches per person for 12 people (4 hymnal racks per pew with 3 per), that would be 24 feet for the pew plus 10 feet (two 5 foot aisles). https://www.lifeway.com/en/articles/church-architecture-rules-thumb-space-dimensions
Excerpt from: FM 6-0 Mission Command: Command and Control of Army Forces – August 2003
RELEVANT INFORMATION SUBJECT CATEGORIES—METT-TC
B-10. Relevant information is all information of importance to the commander and staff in the exercise of command and control (FM 3-0 [Operations – February 2008]). In the context of information management, the six factors of METT-TC — Mission, Enemy, Terrain and weather, Troops and support available, Time available, and Civil considerations—make up the major subject categories into which relevant information is grouped for military operations. The commander and staff consider R[elevant] I[nformation] for each category in all military operations. The relative impact of each category may vary, but the commander and C2 [Command and Control] system consider them all.
B-11. The mission is the task, together with the purpose, that clearly indicates the action to be taken and the reason therefore (JP 1-02 [Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms]). It is always the first factor commanders consider during decisionmaking. (See FM 5-0 [The Operations Process – March 2010].) A thorough understanding of the mission focuses decisionmaking throughout the operations process. … Commanders and staffs view all the other factors of METT-TC in terms of their impact on mission accomplishment.
B-12. The mission statement defines the who, what, when, where, and why of the operation. A thorough understanding of why the unit is conducting an operation provides the focus for planning.
In every encounter there is an element of chance.
–John Hall, former head of the FBI Firearms Training Unit
The perils of Intervention are very high. The question I like to pose about mission definition is:
To whom does your primary duty and allegiance lie, a total stranger or your family?
That’s a moral decision I do not choose to answer for anyone else, only myself.
Who is around me and what are they doing? – Tom Givens
What are you capable of? – Ken Hackathorn
What’s the object of the exercise? – the Tactical Professor
What is the best use of my time right now? – Alan Lakein
METT-TC is a well developed structure for asking questions when developing plans for Personal Protection.
- Terrain and Weather
- Troops and Support Available
- Time Available
- Civil (Legal and moral) Considerations
SALUTE is a good structure for gathering information in the moment.
- Location (proximity)
When we are children, we are constantly asking questions. As adults, we usually get in the habit of providing opinions, experiences, and self-promotion instead of asking question. Information gathering is a vital skill in Personal Protection. Putting ourselves back into the question asking mode requires a shift in our thinking patterns that requires practice.
My thanks to John Correia of Active Self Protection for stimulating my thinking about the topic.
If I went out looking for bad guys for 8-10 hours a day every workday, I’d be carrying a high capacity autoloader too. And I’d be wearing a helmet.